Posts have been lacking lately but I have a legitimate excuse; I have been in the field. Specifically in Joshua Tree National Park where there is no water, let alone an internet connection. I was in the park for about a week conducting some social science research through a grant that I received from a private foundation associated with the park. The research part is a bit boring (basically I was surveying climbers and hikers about their perceptions of resource impacts), but I came home with some good photos and some even better stories.
We camped in the Hidden Valley campground, which I now know has pretty much become the “Camp 4” of Joshua Tree. I am 99.9% sure we were the only non-climbers in the campground. Finding camping space in the park is fierce as campgrounds are almost always full during the park’s busy times of the year. In Hidden Valley we were constantly shooing away people as they tried to squat on our campsite, claim it as their own, or curse us (and by us, I mean Dave) out claiming that we do not know how to fill out a camping ticket (in actuality this person needed to learn how to count). Additionally, we had a group come by in the middle of the night, park at our campground, and have an illegal campfire between our campsite and our neighbors. I think when I go back in March I will be camping somewhere else.
Being in southern California, I was able to meet up with a few friends who I had not seen in awhile (one who I had not seen in a couple months and one who I had not see in 5 years). We worked half days surveying, which allowed for “free” time for part of the day to hike or run into town to get water. I was able to do a few hikes in the park including the 49 Palms Oasis and Ryan Mountain. Both were beautiful hikes with perfect weather and excellent company.
Interestingly enough, Californians and visitors to Joshua Tree were the most apprehensive visitors I have ever seen. As they saw us standing there on the trail with clipboards in hand, many people remarked “I am already registered to vote!” and “what are you trying to sell me?”. Some people flat out tried to run away from us, but were much more approachable once we were able to squeak out “Actually, we are graduate students!”. Once people realized that we did not want their credit card number, they were usually happy to spend some time filling out our survey.
We spent American Thanksgiving (I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving last month) while in the park and were able to make a nice little meal for ourselves. We had an “Italian” Thanksgiving by making delicious turkey meatballs to go with our pasta and vodka sauce. Since no Thanksgiving is complete without dessert, I found a recipe for pumpkin pie that you can make while backpacking. The “pumpkin pie” ended up looking more like baby food than pie but it tasted pretty close to the real thing. We also discovered “jumbomallows” on this trip; these are GIANT marshmallows that are perfect for s’mores and make a pretty good garnish for fake pumpkin pie.
I will return to Joshua Tree National Park in March for a second round of surveying (hopefully with climbing gear in hand this time). I am looking forward to returning when the weather is a little warmer (we had frost on our tents many mornings!) and when, hopefully, the wildflowers will be blooming.
Note: Special thanks to Dave and Kelly for spending 24 hours in a car with me and helping me pester people to take surveys. Such good friends I have!